UK mulls sending more troops to Afghanistan

Britain could substantially boost its troop numbers in Afghanistan following demands from US President Donald Trump that NATO members "pay their fair share." (Reuters)
Updated 18 May 2018

UK mulls sending more troops to Afghanistan

  • Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson is believed to have asked Prime Minister Theresa May for 400 more soldiers to be sent to help the fight against the Taliban.
  • 600 British soldiers are already training Afghan forces.

LONDON: Britain could substantially boost its troop numbers in Afghanistan following demands from US President Donald Trump that NATO members "pay their fair share", The Times reported Friday.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson is believed to have asked Prime Minister Theresa May for 400 more soldiers to be sent to help the fight against the Taliban, adding to the 600 already training Afghan forces.
Trump announced last year that the US would send an additional 3,500 troops to secure areas that had fallen under Taliban control and has frequently warned that members need to fulfil their commitments to NATO spending.
"Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they're supposed to be paying for their defence," Trump said at NATO's headquarters in Brussels last year.
May is due to make an announcement at a NATO summit in July, where it is anticipated Trump may turn the screw even further.
Britain's Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it remained "committed to NATO's ...mission, in which we play an important role, and keep our contribution under constant review."
Richard Barrons, a former commander of Joint Forces Command, said Britain needed to acknowledge that challenges still remained in Afghanistan.
"When we left it was not the case that the Afghan national army and the air force were strong enough to tip the balance against the Taliban and that now has to be reset," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.


UK scientists to update COVID-19 vaccine to resist new variants

Updated 21 January 2021

UK scientists to update COVID-19 vaccine to resist new variants

LONDON: The team behind the UK’s main COVID-19 vaccine, developed at Oxford University, is preparing to update the inoculation to be resistant to new strains of the virus.

British newspaper The Independent reported that the team is mobilizing this new effort in response to the variants seen in the UK, South Africa and elsewhere.

The efficacy of the current vaccine against the most common strains of COVID-19 is being assessed by scientists from the university, with preliminary results expected toward mid-February. 

Prof. Sarah Gilbert, the team’s lead, said the researchers would not wait to discover the test’s results before acting, and instead are already synthesizing the new variants into the jab that is currently being rolled out nationwide.

Scientists at Oxford University are understood to be confident that their vaccine will not need to be adapted in response to the British variant, which was discovered last month after an especially rapid outbreak in Kent. 

Data published by Pfizer and BioNTech, the producers of the other vaccine being provided in Britain, has indicated that their inoculation is resistant to the new COVID-19 strain.

More analysis is being conducted to assess whether it will be able to neutralize the newer South African and Brazilian variants.

A spokesperson from Oxford University said any necessary modifications would take “one day’s worth of work” before being grown in cell culture within a laboratory.

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